Good Morning Lakeland Residents,
Things are starting to take off for Lakeland in a big way, and I hope you share my excitement for the plans and amenities that are in the works for our great city! I'm speaking, of course, of the potential for a collaboration between the City of Lakeland and YMCA of the Mid-South in the Lakeland Gateway. From news articles in Lakeland's online publication last week, as well as the items approved by the Lakeland Board of Commissioners (BOC), it's clear that leadership has plans to revitalize our primary gateway into the city and bring something truly unique for us all to enjoy for years to come.
Here are the headlines for this week:
- The BOC has authorized negotiations with property owners in the Lakeland Gateway Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District to buy the land needed for a YMCA (Econo Lodge and Refuge Church sites)
- May will see the City celebrate the National Day of Prayer and Nurses Month
A quick note: Hyperlinks in these weekly updates may "go dead" over time. If you are reviewing an older update, and click the blue text, and it leads nowhere... our apologies. Our website is currently under revision and update. If this occurs and you're looking for a specific page or document, please use the search function of the website. Past meetings can always be viewed at lakelandtn.gov/agendas.
Let's jump right in with...
A Look Back at Last Week
Board of Commissioners Meeting
The BOC met in regular voting session on Thursday April 20th at 6pm. At the link, you can watch and listen to updates from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, my City Manager report, and reports from each Commissioner liaison on recent meetings. Here's a quick recap of the other business of the meeting:
Photo by Alexis Cheyenne Photography
Public hearings, and public comments. These are a critical component of a representative government, and here's a summary of the public discourse from last Thursday.
- Public Hearing - Two ordinances were up for public hearing. Public hearing happens on any ordinance that is up for second and final reading, prior to the vote, to allow residents the opportunity to speak either in favor or against the changes that the BOC considers making through their actions. In this case, the two ordinances were for an update in the sewer user rates, and an update of the municipal code that was clerical in nature (updating the date of an agreement with the City of Memphis). Former Commissioner Richard Gonzales spoke during public hearing regarding the change in sewer rates, urging the BOC to remove the provisions of the ordinance whereby sewer rates would be updated annually based on the consumer price index. His concern was over the rates changing without BOC review; however, during the course of the meeting several BOC members and City Staff spoke regarding the annual budget process, whereby the BOC would indeed be reviewing and approving any rate changes.
- Public Comments - Two residents from the Windward Slopes subdivision spoke to the BOC Thursday evening, exercising the right of all citizens to be heard by the board in open public session. Mr. Sosa expressed a desire to add street lights to the subdivision, requested that the paving of Windward Slopes be moved forward a year so that the subdivision could then gate and make private their community, and requested an update on the discussions regarding the location of facilities for the Shelby County Sheriff's Office in Lakeland.
- Mayor Josh Roman, in response to these concerns, added an item to the agenda to specifically discuss Windward Slopes, which was moved ahead of other regular business.
- Mr. Skrmetti of Windward Slopes spoke to the BOC and requested again a specific level of service agreement with the Sheriff's office. Mr. Skrmetti also requested that domestic and other cases be added to the monthly crime report, and expressed concerns of a lack of perceived police presence in the area.
- In response to these concerns, Mayor Roman clarified that the Sheriff's Office space in Lakeland would primarily be departmental offices, and his desire for the location to be somewhere highly visible and directly off the interstate with a visible presence to deter crime. In terms of the crime report, Mayor Roman clarified that based on conversations with the Sheriff's Office, the report contains only preventable crimes for tracking purposes.
- In response to the request to pave Windward Slopes early, Mr. Sosa spoke with the BOC and the Mayor led the discussion of the cost (currently estimated at $1 million), the timing of the life of the newly paved roads, and ensuring that Windward Slopes, if they take their streets private, adequately covers future repaving and replacement costs through their homeowners association fees.
- No formal action was taken by the BOC related to these discussion items.
Photo by Alexis Cheyenne Photography
- Public Presentation - John Lancaster, Chief Development Officer with the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA), presented to the BOC at Mayor Roman's invitation to discuss potential collaboration between MATA and the City of Lakeland for park and ride and other transportation services for the community, particularly within the Lakeland Gateway TIF District. The full presentation can be viewed on the meeting video (use the bookmarks on the right-hand sidebar to jump to it).
What Got a Vote
Moving into the official actions of the BOC last Thursday, here's what got a vote:
- Two ordinances (the highest form of action by the BOC, requiring two readings and a public hearing) were passed on second and final reading:
- Setting new sewer rates, based on the rate study by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service of the University of Tennessee and verified by work performed by Watkins Uiberall, PLLC (the City's audit firm). The ordinance was passed 5-0.
- Updating the date of the agreement with the City of Memphis in the sewer section of the municipal code, passed unanimously via acclamation ("acclamation" means when the item is voted upon, the Mayor calls for "all in favor say 'aye'" as opposed to a roll call vote - at any time, any member of the BOC can request a roll call vote instead).
- One ordinance was up for first reading - to amend the fiscal year 2023 annual budget (the current fiscal year). This amendment does not increase appropriations, but recognizes the use of the American Rescue and Recovery Plan Act funds received by the City of Lakeland. On first reading, this passed unanimously via acclamation - second and final reading is expected on May 4th.
- The BOC confirmed, by authorizing a Mayoral Proclamation, May 4, 2023 as a Day of Prayer in Lakeland. Commissioner Connie McCarter brought this to the board, and intends to host a prayer service that day at the I.H. Clubhouse (more details to follow). This item passed unanimously via acclamation.
- Presented by Commissioner McCarter, the BOC also unanimously confirmed (by acclamation) May as Nurses Month in the City of Lakeland.
- A resolution presented by Commissioner McCarter to rename the recently passed Neighborhood Watch Funds Reimbursement Policy was tabled, due to concerns over the name change.
- Commissioner McCarter also presented two related resolutions to establish and name a Neighborhood Watch BOC liaison position. After discussing the intended roles and responsibilities of the position, Commissioner Michele Dial nominated Commissioner McCarter for the role, and then both resolutions were passed unanimously via acclamation of remaining members in attendance (Vice-Mayor Wesley Wright left the meeting early).
- The final resolution passed was presented by Mayor Roman, and authorizes me to negotiate with the owners of the Econo Lodge and the Refuge Church for the City to acquire these properties to support partnership with the YMCA, whereby the City would gain needed recreational facilities, including an intended baseball diamond. The Mayor spoke about the benefit of acquiring the land within a TIF district, as the City could potentially be reimbursed for the purchase from future property tax dollars paid by landowners within the TIF district. Commissioner Jim Atkinson spoke in favor of aggressive redevelopment of the area, and pointed out that this resolution authorizes negotiations and option contracts, but final approval would always come back to the BOC for approval. The resolution was approved unanimously via acclamation (with the exception of the Vice-Mayor).
A Look Ahead to This Week
Community Advisory Board Meeting
The Community Advisory Board (CAB) meets quarterly, and their next meeting is Tuesday night at 5:30pm at City Hall. Here's what's on the agenda:
- Commissioner Dial (BOC liaison to the CAB) and I will update the CAB on last week's appointment of a Neighborhood Watch liaison, and encourage them to work with Commissioner McCarter to promote the establishment of additional programs in Lakeland's communities
- I will give the CAB an update on the City's communications plan, including upcoming activities to improve communications and notifications with residents
- City Staff will update the CAB on recent economic development activities with the goal of promoting awareness of these changes in our community
Industrial Development Board Meeting
The Industrial Development Board would typically be meeting this Thursday evening - however, as there is no business for the board this month, the meeting is canceled. In the mean time, the IDB attorney and the developers of the Ashmont property within the Lakeland Gateway TIF District continue to work toward a development agreement for the area.
To Be Continued...
Following the passage of the resolution to engage in property acquisition negotiations in partnership with the YMCA, Mayor Roman and I met with leadership of the Refuge Church last Friday. We discussed our desire to partner with them to find adequate worship space during any time of transition, and I've scheduled a follow up meeting with them and our partners with the YMCA this week to discuss and negotiate further. This is yet another sign that our work on behalf of the City is never done, but always to be continued.
In the mean time, the day-to-day work of the City goes on, including the Community Clean-up Day this Saturday from 8am to noon at Fireworks City - we hope to see you there!
Please reach out to me any time with feedback, requests, concerns, and most especially if you see Lakeland City Staff doing something exceptional, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Your Service,
Michael Walker, City Manager